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School week remains at five days

Not until next year

Lyle School District No. 406 will operate under a regular 180-day calendar, with a five-day school week, during the 2009-10 school year, according to the district's top administrator.

And that's because the State Board of Education has not yet set the criteria for the pilot program that will give a select group of school districts more flexibility in meeting the state's basic educational requirements, Lyle Supt. Martin Huffman said.

Last spring, the 2009 Legislature enacted legislation--SHB 1292, which took effect July 26--that authorized the State Board of Education to adopt criteria and an application process for the granting of waivers to the 180-day school year requirement "for the purposes of economy and efficiency."

The State Board of Education (SBE), however, is following an implementation schedule that puts off for at least one year any operational changes the five eligible school districts hoped to institute in the coming school year.

"The approval of pilot programs probably won't happen until the November SBE meeting, and after that, we'll figure out our plan of attack," Huffman noted. "The present plan is to have our regular 180-day calendar with four state-approved Learning Improvement Days (for staff training)."

Huffman said he first learned of the SBE's plans for implementing SHB 1292 in a June 4 phone call from the board's Policy and Legislative specialist, Brad Burnham.

Burnham told Huffman the State Board of Education planned to pursue the following course: in July, set guidelines for the flexible schedule; come September, approve the guidelines; and in November, review waiver applications from school districts for approval.

Huffman questioned the need for all of the steps outlined in the state board's timetable, noting the criteria for the flexible schedule were set in the legislation that became law last month.

"These moves seem very slow, with a hint of stalling the process," Huffman said in a memorandum back in June. "As a result, we will have a regular school schedule for next year."

The Lyle School District, in partnership with the Bickleton School District and Klickitat County's state representatives, pushed for the legislation that gives districts more control over their finances and operations.

Moreover, the Lyle and Bickleton districts had planned to begin operating four days a week during the 2009-10 school year. Absent a waiver from the state board, however, the districts are stuck in status quo.

Huffman, for his part, made a case against the business-as-usual model last month during a presentation to the SBE in Gig Harbor. His intent, he noted, was to show policy-makers the district has thought out its approach and is ready to move forward.

"The Lyle School District is looking forward to a flexible calendar waiver to explore, run and refine this new calendar," Huffman told the state board. "We feel that [with] the support of our community and other districts, our students and staff are ready for this innovation in learning."

Any and all waivers granted under the flexible calendar law will be monitored and reviewed annually by the SBE "to determine whether the reduction in days is affecting student learning." Moreover, all waivers will expire on Aug. 31, 2014, unless the Legislature acts to extend the program.


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